In this article, we’ll look at how town hall meetings operate in an organizational context. The purpose of a town hall meeting is to allow:
Town hall meetings also go by the name of All-Hands meetings. The term “all-hands” captures exactly who needs to attend the town hall meeting. Everyone!
We’ll use the terms “all-hands” and “town hall” interchangeably throughout the rest of this article.
Town hall meetings have many advantages:
Although there are many advantages to town hall meetings, there are also a few disadvantages:
There are no standard rules for holding an all-hands meeting but here are some tips which can help you.
As the leader of an organization, you may feel the need to talk, a lot! But you don’t have to. Introduce the agenda so everyone knows what to expect and then jump right in. It isn’t going to be fun for anyone if you’re dragging things out for longer than needed.
A simple agenda for an all-hands might look like this:
Ensure that everyone sticks to their timings. It doesn’t say much for a leadership team if they promise a 90-minute meeting that goes on for 3 hours.
All-hands meetings provide an opportunity to celebrate the successes of your team, even small ones. It’s great to use these meetings to drive your team harder, but that message is more likely to be well received if you’ve already acknowledged their successes. Especially if this is done in front of their peers.
Share information as openly and candidly as you can. It will help to build trust. Of course, it would be imprudent to share certain sensitive information, but share what you can.
This should already be clear to you from the rest of this article, but it is important to invite everyone in the organization to the meeting. Ensure that all new hires get added to the invite list on their first day in the job.
Think how bad it would feel if you were working remotely within a strategically unimportant part of the business and you didn’t receive an invite to the all-hands meeting? What kind of message do you think that sends?
All organizations have somewhere they’re trying to get to. Share your KPIs for these key initiatives so everyone understands how the organization is doing.
Leave some room on the agenda for questions and answers. Remember it’s important to hear feedback from the team and to facilitate them to ask questions to clarify their understanding.
If you don’t know the answer to a question then state you don’t know and will get back to them. As tempting as it can be, don’t try and make up an answer if you don’t know it. You may feel it makes you look better to know the answer to everything, but it actually undermines your credibility if you lie.
All-hands meetings can be a great opportunity to have some fun. This could be getting pizza or beer for everyone at the end of the meeting and encouraging them to socialize. Or it could be giving employees the opportunity to sing or dance to showcase their other talents. Use your imagination here.
If you are managing a small team then Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) can provide an alternative to all-hands meetings.
MBWA won’t scale as well as town hall meetings, but they might give you better information on the fears and challenges facing your team.
Town hall meetings serve three purposes:
To be successful it is important that everyone attends the meeting. These meetings should not be a one-off event. You should hold them frequently to reinforce important points and to align new hires with the objectives of the organization.
It is also important that every all-hands meeting gives employees the opportunity to ask questions. This allows employees to feel part of the decision-making process.
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